I don’t have much luck bringing food to events. When I need to bring food to a party, I seem to have some strong internal drive to fix the most inappropriate thing, and go through agonies to make it. Some mischievous elf in my head sends down strange images to my consciousness telling me what to make as soon as I volunteer. The food is good…. it is usually a recipe that I’ve made before and think is interesting and different. I’ve brought cornbread made with blue cornmeal to picnics, and people have shunned it thinking it was blueberry flavored, or an ugly homemade unfrosted cake, and gone on to the easily recognizable chain-store brand cookies lined up in a clamshell container.
When asked to bring a cake, I make some complicated thing that never looks as good as the picture in my head. My cakes are very tasty, but my decorating skills are, shall we say, possible candidates for cakewrecks.com. I’ve done a cake for a grand opening of a park where I simulated a pond with cattails made of broken pretzel sticks, or that is what it was supposed to look like. I made not one but three types of jelly roll cake with three different fillings for a bridal shower, and the day was so hot that the cakes kept sticking and sliding and I had to keep running up and down the stairs to the garage refrigerator to chill them. I actually sat down and cried because I was so frustrated and had spent the entire day baking in a heat wave with a mess to show for it. I ended up arranging the individual cakes in a flower shape and sprinkled dried rose buds and edible glitter around. It looked pretty, if amateurish, but I knew they’d taste wonderful. It was so hot in the car I thought I would be redecorating my Prius with homemade lemon curd and chocolate filling. I had to stick the large pan in the surprised hostess’s refrigerator, which took up a lot of space. Then when it was cake time, I found that the jelly rolls had already been sliced up and plated so that you couldn’t tell the flavors apart and all the rosebuds thrown out, without the bride-to-be or anyone else even seeing it. I could have just made a sheet cake and everyone would have been happy.
I’ve brought vegetarian main dishes that no one but my children and I seem to want to eat, even though they aren’t creepy tofu-y mock turkeys or anything. Labeling a dish ‘vegetarian’ is like putting a curse on it, although many dishes other people bring don’t have meat in them either. To be ‘vegetarian’ means scary, weird food of unknown origin that probably tastes like sprouts or tofu or whole wheat.
I know when my offerings are rejected, it isn’t really the food… the food tastes good. That is, if anyone dares eat it. It is just out of place, just as I am at most parties. My food and I belong at small gatherings of friends who are expecting a new experience. Who want to try something different and talk about it. Who enjoy subtleties of flavor and the goodness of fresh herbs and spices. Who don’t judge on how good a dish appears, but how it tastes. Who are forgiving and especially have a good sense of humor.
Which brings me to another example of something not to bring to most parties: roasted radishes. Especially to one where there is a lot of drinking going on. Everyone will wonder what they are and no one will touch them because there is perfectly predictable Albertsons layered nacho dip and bagged chips right next to them. Since roasted radishes aren’t the prettiest looking things, they will be the last edible thing on the buffet table besides the really, really cheap half-finished bag of corn chips, and when everyone is really, really drunk, some unpleasant personal comments might be said about their appearance. The radishes will be cold and soggy by that time, too, and not the best thing for someone with a lot of alcohol in his or her system to put into his or her mouth at that point. However, if served at home as an interesting appetizer along with something less scary-looking, these are just great. No, really, they are. You should try them. I was impressed enough to try to force them on strangers at someone’s home, so you should be, too.
Growing radishes is very easy and quick, and roasting them gives you something to do with them. Radishes only take a few weeks to mature, so they are often the first thing up and ready in the garden. Give this recipe a try the next time you roast veggies; many people who don’t really like radishes enjoy them this way.
- Three bunches radishes, preferable different colors if you can find them
- Three tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- ⅛th teaspoon cayenne
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Coarse salt
- Preheat oven to 425 F.
- Wash radishes and cut all but a little tuft of radish leaves off of each radish. Don't cut off the roots.
- In a medium bowl whisk oil, thyme, cayenne and black pepper.
- Add radishes and toss to coat.
- Pour radishes onto a flat baking pan and drizzle with any remaining oil mixture.
- Roast 40 - 50 minutes, turning once midway through roasting, until a knife easily slides into a radish and they are lightly browned.
- Sprinkle or grind coarse salt over the tops.
- Serve immediately.